Poisoned rhino horn won't deter poaching in the Kruger

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Skukuza - The poisoning of rhino horns in a bid to fight rhino poaching will never work in the Kruger National Park, says park spokesman William Mabasa.

This follows suggestions that injecting poison into rhino horns would deter rhino poachers who sell the horns to the Far East where they are used in aphrodisiacs.

The idea was put forward during discussions held at the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve in Kromdraai outside Pretoria, Gauteng last week.

"This strategy will never help in quelling rhino poaching in the park because we have so many rhino such that we can't even manage to capture them. But I do think it will be a good thing for the individuals who own few rhinos," said Mabasa on Wednesday.

Mabasa said the park was doing all in its power to stop the escalating rhino poaching crisis that has seen almost one rhino being killed per day in the country, including the Kruger. 

Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve spokeswoman Lorinda Hern said poisoning rhino horns may reduce the demand in Asian countries, where rhino horn is used for medicinal purposes, most notably as an aphrodisiac.

"The (poison) is a mixture of ectoparasiticides, developed by the reserve for its own rhinos," Hern said.

Ectoparasiticides are poisons that kill parasites living on the surface of the host.

She said the potion was not lethal to humans, but causes unpleasant symptoms such as convulsions and headaches.

"The chemicals have the dual threat of keeping away both natural and human parasites... and last for three to four years." 

Hern said the treatment would also significantly reduce the smuggling of rhino horn through airports.

"The dye, similar to products used in the banking industry, is visible on an x-ray scanner and thus a treated horn, even when ground to a fine powder, cannot be passed through security checkpoints unnoticed," said Hern.

Hern said the reserve came up with the method after a rhino was poached there in May last year.
She said it was also important to continue educating consumers that rhino horn contains no nutritional or medicinal value.

Meanwhile, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has announced that she is considering additional anti-poaching measures, including a moratorium on rhino hunting.

"This is one of a number of measures I am contemplating to further strengthen interventions to ensure that our rhino populations are conserved," she said in a statement.

Since January 1, poachers killed more than 281 rhinos in South Africa.

According to Molewa, currently there are about 18 800 white rhino and 2 200 of the endangered black rhino in South Africa.

She said 155 suspects were arrested this year in connection with rhino poaching. Of these arrests, 65 took place in Kruger National Park. - BuaNews